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Use Your Voice
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Ruinsong by Julia Ember

Ruinsong by Julia Ember

Summary

Ever since she was young, Cadence has served a tyrannical queen who uses Cadence’s magic to torture the nobility. Her voice is her strongest weapon, yet she cannot use it to defend herself or innocent citizens. When fate reunites Cadence with her childhood best friend, a nobleman’s daughter, she is faced with two paths – become the mage the queen wants her to become or free the country from its suffering.

Review

Ruinsong is a fascinating fantasy read. The setting really captured my attention from the start. In many instances magic is channeled through the voice, often by way of spells as vocal commands, but this is the second story I can think of where magic comes from song. In this universe, mages avoid using magic on themselves because of its dangerous potential. Both of these elements lend themselves to some interesting concepts. As much as this book explored those concepts, I would love to read more into this world and further explore the potential of magic.

The two main characters are also beautifully complex. They have dreams, desires, and motivations that are both personal and involve each other. As the story progresses, both grow greatly as characters. Even at points where they seem to act or react in ways that seem regressive to their development, their development ultimately influences them to consider things differently. I do wish some of the other characters were as developed. The side characters and even antagonists felt like they could’ve used more fleshing out. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Ruinsong and would love to see more books in this universe!

Yours in love and literature,

Page

Content warning(s): violence, torture, murder, animal death, emotional distress, manipulation, body shaming, illness

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The Witch, the Wolf, and the Girl
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Cover Reveal: A Wolf For A Spell by Karah Sutton | Book ...

A Wolf for a Spell by Karah Sutton

Summary

Zima and Nadya are almost totally different. Zima’s pack, despite their differences, loves and protects her. Nadya is an orphan whose only friend is soon leaving to marry the tsar. They’re united by their love for the forest and the simultaneous fear of Baba Yaga and need for her help. Soon she will bring the two into a centuries-old conflict that threatens life as they all know it.

Review

A Wolf for a Spell is truly a captivating read. It draws heavily from Russian fairy tales and takes place largely in a magical forest, so it hooked me from the start. All of the characters are truly intertwined and affect each other, though for much of the book they do not directly interact. I absolutely loved how the point of view switched throughout the story, letting readers in on a much wider scope of understanding. Each of the three main characters has a different level of power and influence in their world, yet the split narrative levels their power over the reader.

I also fell totally in love with the female-centric cast. All of the main characters are female and so are many of the supporting characters, and each is perfectly written. This author has really mastered the idea of a strong female character – not those that are physically strong, but who have fears and wants and dreams like any real person. While it was still very fairy tale-esque, none of the female characters fell too heavily into stereotypical roles. This is the first Baba Yaga retelling I’ve ever read! The author did a beautiful job, and I’m looking forward to her future works!

Yours in love and literature,

Page

Content warning(s): murder (off-page), injury

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She Won’t Be Another Dead Girl
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Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller

Summary

The mansion Bram’s uncle owns is her best chance to disappear. Not only is it in the tiny town of Louth, where no one but her uncle knows her, but the locals steer clear of the mansion and its Dead Girls. But when Bram arrives, she finds that not everything is as it seems at the mansion. If she stays for too long, she may join the Dead Girls and disappear for good.

Review

Don’t Tell a Soul is a wonderfully chilling book. The mansion perfectly sets the scene for a story like this – a mansion with a burnt down wing almost totally abandoned and rumored to be both haunted and cursed. Bram doesn’t know who she can trust, and that makes it all the more frightening. Her uncle isn’t the man she remembers from her childhood, she inherently doesn’t trust the unfamiliar men around her, and the locals hate outsiders.

My favorite part of this book was probably the Dead Girls themselves and Bram’s reaction to them. Rather than accepting that they had died in horrific circumstances, Bram looks deeper into their stories to understand them and why they may have met the ends they did. Don’t Tell a Soul is full of strong female characters, intriguing stories, and a past that simply will not stay buried.

Yours in love and literature,

Page

Content warning(s): drug abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, murder, suicide, attempted rape, sexual assault, guns, knives, violence

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A Different Kind of Dragon
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The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

Summary

Rinn is used to life in their mountain village – learning to cook, looking after the Tea Dragons, and gathering out in the surrounding wood. But one day they wake a real dragon named Aedhan who fell asleep before the Tea Dragon Festival eighty years ago. With the aid of their family, especially their uncle and his partner, Rinn must find out the source of Aedhan’s enchanted sleep and help him feel welcome in the village he was meant to protect.

Review

Like The Tea Dragon Society, the first of this series, The Tea Dragon Festival is an enchanting and adorable book. The illustrations are beautiful, the characters vibrant, and the plot immensely wholesome. Even in panels that lack words, the sense of community and love is clear. For younger readers, the beauty and magic is sure to captivate. The themes of acceptance and finding one’s place in the world will touch older readers. This low-tension read is perfect for kids, but this gorgeous fantasy world may pull in older readers as well.

The casual representation in this book is also amazing. From several nonbinary characters to the clear presence of many different ethnicities within the village to the widespread use of sign language in consideration of a deaf character, the depiction of this book ensures that hopefully everyone will be able to see themselves in it. Books that focus on diversity and representation are important. It is also important, however, that children’s books represent different types of children casually. Children who aren’t white or cisgender or who are disabled deserve to be seen. In the end, The Tea Dragon Festival is a wonderful and diverse read and suitable for readers of all ages.

Yours in love and literature,

Page

Content warning(s): brief fight, blood/injury

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Ruut DeMeo launches NEW book series with Omnibus Publishing
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Ruut DeMeo’s books series promises can’t put down reads

Maryland Author Launches New Book Series to Rave Reviews

Ruut DeMeo, Author and Illustrator of Addie’s Sketchbook, Summer in Wellfleet

Baltimore, MD: Ruut DeMeo’s first book in the “Addie’s Sketchbook” series, “Summer in Wellfleet,” launched in June 2021 to rave reviews. Regarding her first ever illustrated novel DeMeo says, “Summer in Wellfleet is an illustrated mini-mystery that comes to life on the sketchbook pages of a funny, thirteen your old girl.”  

Author and Librarian Reviews: 

Originally from Finland, author, Ruut DeMeo now hails from Baltimore County, Maryland, USA, where she resides with her husband and children. She is available for in person or virtual speaking events and book events as well as school presentations. Please contact Wendy Dean at [email protected] for more information on event availability.

 

Family Is What You Make It
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I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

Summary

Ben DeBacker has the highest hopes for coming out to their parents. They’re their child after all – surely they’ll understand. Instead, they find themself kicked out and crashing with their older sister, who they haven’t seen in ten years. Ben is forced into a new life with Hannah and her husband and decides to only come out to them and their new therapist. But when a charming student at their new school becomes determined to befriend Ben, they may find that their parents’ rejection was only the beginning to a happier life.

Review

I believe that when you love a book, it’s in one of two ways – either you — or it takes up residence quietly in your heart and in the back of your mind for weeks. I Wish You All the Best is turning out to be the latter. This book was so impactful in so many ways. The writing is absolutely beautiful and immersive, the characters vivid, and the story ultimately full of hope. It truly shows that your family isn’t always the one you’re born into, but the people you choose to let into your life. Despite their parents’ expectations of Ben, they learn to follow what they want for themself and do what they want. They form relationships with people who love them for who they are, not who they want Ben to become.

The discussions of mental health in this book were amazing as well. It’s not easy to be kicked out, constantly misgendered, and expected to be someone you’re not to fit in. Ben struggles with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and the weight of their family situation. Hannah may be wonderful to them, but she still abandoned them with their parents, and that isn’t something that can be overcome overnight. Even at the end of the book, Ben is still struggling with their mental health. I really appreciated that they weren’t totally “cured” by their relationships. Rather, they spend the story learning to cope with mental illness and are still loved unconditionally. I Wish You All the Best was a wonderful story that really explored the complexities of being a nonbinary teen and finding your family in unexpected places.

Yours in love and literature, Page.

Content warning(s): being kicked out, homophobia, transphobia, misgendering, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, underage drinking, swearing

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One Day We’ll Go to the Moon
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the ship we built by Lexie Bean

Summary

Rowan can’t keep a diary – after all, his parents or the kids at school might find and read it. He writes letters instead, attaching them to balloons and sending them floating into the sky. Each letter details the secrets he’s too afraid to tell and the life he leads, where too many people want him to stop being himself.

Review

This book is simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful. At many points, I wondered if I would be able to finish it. the ship we built deals with a lot of heavy topics such as parental abuse, transphobia, and the havoc a parent going to prison can wreak on a family. Rowan’s fears and pain are so vivid that it was difficult to get through the book at times. He’s desperate for a friend, but when his old friends gather under the trampoline and point at him until he leaves, he feels lonely and abandoned. Throughout this book, Rowan constantly battles with what he knows about himself and the heartbreaking reality that it may cost him the people that should love him the most.

Yet, despite all of the sadness and pain in Rowan’s life, there is hope, too. He finds a friend and ally in Sofie, who doesn’t make him feel like he’s bad for not being the girl his parents and peers want him to be. Despite everyone around him pressuring him to change, he ultimately remains sure that he’s a boy. Rowan may feel out of place most of the time, but there are people and places he learns to find a home in. While not necessarily happy, the book ends on a very hopeful note. I would suggest that readers try not to be put off by the heavy aspects of this book and make it all the way through. It’s certainly worth it.

Yours in love and literature,

Page

Content warning(s): homophobia, transphobia, bullying, alcohol abuse, incest, sexual assault of a child, parental abuse, suicidal thoughts, implied conversion therapy, religious homophobia/transphobia

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She Can Love
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30 Essential LGBT+ Books for YA Readers

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Summary

After her girlfriend broke up with her for being asexual, Alice has decided she’s done with dating. Instead, she’ll spend this summer third-wheeling for her soon-to-be-married best friends. But when she meets Takumi, a new employee at the library where she works, suddenly her whole world turns upside-down. Now, between her strange new feelings, the pressure from her family to go to law school, and the straining relationship between her and her best friends, Alice’s summer is going to be a lot more difficult than she thought.

Review

I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read with an asexual main character. That’s part of what made this book so special to me right off the bat – a romance book with a biromantic asexual main character. I’ve never read anything with a perspective quite like this. And, despite what little I had in common with Alice, I completely fell in love with her story. Her feelings and struggles were so vivid it felt as though I could truly understand what she was going through. She’s such a real character, with real and clear flaws. I think that was what resonated with me the most about this book – the realness of every character and the complexities of their relationships with one another. To be frank, they can be terrible! They fight, they refuse to communicate, they’re overdramatic and pushy and petty. I won’t say that it didn’t annoy me at times how frequently they fell into stereotypes, but somehow it felt like it worked with the plot.

As much as Alice struggles throughout the story, this book is absolutely adorable. The progression of Alica and Takumi’s relationship is so sweet, though there were points where I wondered if Takumi was being a little too perfect to be realistic. The plot was very light, which may not interest some readers. Emotions really take center stage in this book. Overall, I found this book very cute if slightly trope-y, and I’d love to see more representation like this!

Yours in love and literature, Page.

Content warning(s): discussions of sex, alcohol, underage drinking, harassment, racism, acephobia

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Welcome to Your New Life
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reading – schuylerbailar – pinkmantaray

Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

Summary

Zenobia July is dealing with a lot of new – new home, new school, new family, new friends, new gender presentation. She’s overwhelmed and feeling out of control until a hacker starts posting bigoted memes on the school website. With her computer skills, she knows she can catch them, but how can she balance that with everything else?

Review

Zenobia July is a really wonderful story of starting anew. As Zen navigates her new life, aspects of the old keep popping up. The vast difference between her old life and how she is living now cause her to seek out familiarity, though it may be to her detriment. She always pushes on despite her fears. As she makes friends, confronts bullies, and battles with herself, Zenobia learns to reconcile her past and move forward. The relationship between Zenobia and the people around her is vital to this progression. The friends she makes are especially important to her ability to move on. The other kids may call them weird, but maybe being weird is better than having to stay hidden.

What I loved most about this book is how it didn’t shy away from the aspects of the trans experience that are often considered too “adult” for children. From dysphoria to fear of using public restrooms to the relationship between the Christian religion and trans people, Zenobia July covers material that I haven’t seen much of in children’s books. Both the plot and the book itself show that transness cannot be considered an “adult” topic. The negative attitudes of adults towards it only make it more difficult for both transgender and cisgender children to understand and accept. Even within the story, adults largely influence the way the children view trans people. It’s books like these that can help both children and adults understand the trans experience and, hopefully, make the world a safer place for our trans siblings.

Yours in love and literature, Page.

Content warning(s): homophobia, transphobia, religious homophobia and transphobia, outing, islamophobia, mentions of antisemitism and racism, gender dysphoria, bullying, intentional misgendering, parental neglect

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Two Films, One Competition
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I Think I Love You by Auriane Desombre

I Think I Love You by Auriane Desombre

Summary

The chance of a lifetime comes in the form of a school email – an opportunity to enter the high school division of the NYC-LA Film Festival and compete for internships and scholarships. For Emma, a huge romantic, this is the chance she’s been waiting for to see herself onscreen, convince her parents to let her go to film school, and maybe even come out to them. But when Sophie unexpectedly comes back from Paris and inserts herself into the plans, the drama may not just be on camera.

Review

If you’re looking for a sweet hate-to-love/rivals-to-lovers story, I Think I Love You is the book for you! This book is a light read, serious at times but balanced with sweetness. The characters are high schoolers and act the part. They can be dramatic and argue over seemingly petty things, but have moments of maturity. The plot is rather straightforward and doesn’t require too much deep analysis for the most part. As someone who doesn’t read many books like this, it was strange to read a book with such a plot in a setting I’m relatively familiar with!

Unfortunately, the characters didn’t always do it for me. Both of the main characters got a bit annoying at times, and though I could usually understand where they were coming from, their reactions to situations could be a bit over the top. I also thought there was far too much miscommunication and meddling. None of the characters seemed to be able to give others the chance to figure things out on their own. Friends setting each other up can be cute to a certain extent, but this book gets to the point where two people can hardly make a decision without the others involving themselves. All in all, I Think I Love You is a cute story with realistic characters and a sweet message – love can be found even in the most unexpected of places.

Yours in love and literature, Page.

Content warning(s): male character responds to rejection threateningly (non-violent), miscommunication, swearing

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